Portraits of the Artists

by Sara Vanderbeek


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Portraits of the Artists is a series of oil paintings featuring artists in their studios. The artists range from regional to international in recognition, and include: Nate Cassie, Stephanie Chambers, Chuck Close, Lesley Dill, Rick Frederick, Nathan Green, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Katy Horan, Shara Hughes, OTIS IKE and Ivette Lucas, Julia Rothman, Chris Sauter, Ethel Shipton, Julie Speed, Jim Torok, Vincent Valdez, Michael Velliquette, and Joan Winter.

For these paintings the process begins with a meeting with the artist in their studio. During these visits, I photograph the artist and their environment. We discuss their work and studio, and through this interaction, I feel that I gain a better understanding of who the artist is, which leads to a more accurate translation of their personality in the painting.

More than a documentation, each of these paintings is a tribute. They celebrate the work and aspirations of the artist — each of whom have influenced my own work, and, above all, inspired me to be a painter and live creatively. Their generosity, along with a persistent restlessness to continue working on this new collection is what "gets me up in the morning.” When I complete the project, I hope to publish my first book comprised of these paintings, the artists, their artwork, my experiences with them, and the story of our studio visit. I also hope this will culminate in a 2013 exhibition of the paintings together.

This series represents an extension of my professional artwork to date, which derives largely from a concept I developed 12 years ago, loosely titled Everyone I Have Ever Known — where it was a long-term goal to paint all of the people in my life. Although this achievement is not realistic, I return again and again to this concept as a source of ongoing inspiration, conviction and reassurance.

Because I normally support myself off of commissioned paintings, I created this USA Project as a way to have the time and capital to complete this personal series and chronicle these artists. Any funding I receive from USA Projects will be spent exclusively on expenses related to this project: studio, supplies, travel, food and shelter.

Your tax-deductable donations are completely what will make this project possible. Please donate and help make this project a reality!


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